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Salem's Trial by Township*

Strange Novel About Salem in the Time of the Witch Trials

I found this novella to be peculiar. It features a newly-arrived Irish couple, the Gilchrists, in Salem, Massachusetts, around the time of the witch trials. They’ve come to take over property owned by a cousin who has passed. A busybody neighbor, Edith, harasses them about several things–their religion, their dress, and their tithing to the local church; apparently, as one character said, she is generous with other people’s money. She demands that the couple give 75% their apple crop to the church to help feed the community. For some reason, everybody seems to take this woman seriously–including the Gilchrists–which seems a little crazy to me. She even gets a judge to come along with her and harass them at one point. She wants to accuse the man of witchcraft unless she gets her way.

The writing itself was very stiff. Characters spoke in ways that nobody talks. The backstory was given in large, data-dump chunks in dialogue. As I was reading along, I couldn’t quite believe that this one woman would have such an impact on the people of her community, especially when it eventually became clear that she often stood to gain from her shenanigans. On a completely different note, the cover doesn’t seem to fit the book at all. While I’m not from Massachusetts, I have visited, and the area around Salem looks nothing like this. The woman in the cover painting seems to be standing in a place like Scotland rather than in Massachusetts.

I cannot recommend this book.